December 28, 2022 1 Comment
Brad Elder is a volunteer firefighter in Crete, Nebraska.
He’s also a college professor at Doane University, teaching courses on Ecological Botany, Ecological Zoology, among others. He runs the school’s Prescribed Burn program.
So he knows something about fire and nature and the unpredictability that emerges when the two forces meet.
On October 23, Elder sustained severe burns over 20% of his body while he was dispatched to help contain wildfires in Lancaster County, Nebraska. He’s been hospitalized since, undergoing surgeries and skin grafts, with more on the way. He’ll likely remain in the hospital until February.
With Elder’s medical bills mounting, one of his friends and fellow firefighters reached out to Fire Dept. Coffee for help.
To help lighten his burden, reduce his expenses and give him a boost on the road to recovery, we were proud to contribute $5,000 to Elder.
“Battling wildfires is incredibly dangerous,” Fire Dept. Coffee President and Founder Luke Schneider said. “No matter how much experience or knowledge you have, everything can change in an instant. We’re grateful for men like Brad Elder who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others, and we’re happy to help in any way we can.”
While working to limit the damage from ongoing wildfires in the area of Hallam, Elder and another firefighter noticed that a home was directly in the path of a growing fire. They were setting up a controlled burn in an effort to redirect the fire and save the home, when the fire suddenly shifted.
“So I turn around, just start running. That was my first indication that it had changed direction,” Elder told 10/11 Now News from the hospital a week after the event. “I’d actually pulled my glove off, about half a second before I got hit, to open up the valve on the drip torch and just got hit in the face.”
He turned to escape, but tripped over his torch.
“Then I was just crawling through the fire,” Elder said.
Once he and his fellow firefighter escaped, they called for help. A local sheriff’s deputy met them and took them to an ambulance, which rushed them to the hospital.
While the other firefighter suffered less severe injuries, Elder sustained third-degree burns on his hands, legs and back. It required — and continues to require — multiple surgeries and a months-long stay in the hospital.
“It’s not as bad as it could be,” Elder said. “It could have been a lot worse. If all it takes is 90 days and a little bit of pain to walk away alive, I’ll take it.”
Elder’s spirit of gratitude and optimism have carried him through the harrowing ordeal.
He will return to his role as a volunteer firefighter, he said, and he plans to use his experience as a teaching moment for his students.
“My plan is to address this as a learning opportunity,” Elder said. “We’re gonna sit down, we’re gonna do a lessons learned series on this to look at what happened, how it happened, and then how to prevent things like this in the future.”
But first, he must focus on recovery. Our $5,000 contribution will help with his mounting medical bills, and his fellow firefighters are also planning a large fundraiser in February to coincide with Elder’s anticipated release from the hospital.
Because of the support from our customers, we are able to play our small role in Elder’s recovery. We’re thankful for his courageous service — and for the support that his friends, family and fellow firefighters continue to provide every day.
We know he’ll be back on the job soon.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
SUPPORT OUR MISSION AND FOLLOW OUR JOURNEY
© 2023 Fire Department Coffee, Inc.